I was born and raised in rural Ireland where there are relatively few protections afforded to the countryside. The result is rural areas blighted by indiscriminate housing and poorly applied planning rules, ie – exactly what Michael McCarthy (22 March) and others are afraid will happen in the UK.
However, there is another side to the argument. In the village where I grew up, the presence of a large rural population in the surrounding countryside as a result of the lax planning regulations creates a strong and vibrant local economy. The village supports four pubs, a dozen shops of various sizes, two restaurants, a garage, a post office, a pharmacy, a medical centre, a community centre, a primary school and a thriving sports club. This acts to bind the local community together and produce a vibrant community with a high quality of life.
By contrast, rural villages of the same size in England look attractive but they are barely able to support a single pub and a part-time shop, and the greatest wish of every young person on reaching 17 is to get their driving licence so that they can leave.
Somewhere between these two lies a happy medium. English rural villages can use the new laws to grow and prosper, but great care must be taken to ensure that the excesses seen in Ireland are avoided.
Newcastle Upon Tyne
The Government is to sacrifice the sublime British countryside to the interests of big business. I profoundly hope that after this change to the planning laws, the first application for a large and sprawling housing estate centres on the lush and lovely countryside around Dean, Chadlington, Kingham, Sarsden and Churchill, villages near Chipping Norton where the Prime Minister and some of his close friends have their homes. Such locals as Jeremy Clarkson and Charlie and Rebekah Brooks will surely have no objection, and of course the well-known Cotswold hunt, the Heythrop, will not mind their hunting activities being curtailed by a whacking great housing estate, will they?
Great Haseley, Oxfordshire
Whether or not you agree with the idea of encouraging housebuilding on greenfield land as a means of economic stimulus, it would be bizarre if the chosen mechanism were to be a presumption of approval (report, 22 March). The planning system is not about like/not like, nor just about the built environment.
The Town and Country Planning Acts require local authorities to plan for the future, to consult with the public and to publish their proposals at various stages. If there is a growing population, the authority decides not just how and where it should be housed but ensures that transport links, drainage and utility provisions are sufficient, that employment opportunities are proportional, retail facilities, school places and hospital beds are available and there are staff to operate them.
We're so used to these things happening that it is possible to forget that it takes skills, diligence and pre-emptive investment to ensure that they do. The consequences of not doing so are readily apparent in countries which make no such provisions.
The proposal appears to bypass this system, allowing developers to construct housing without adequate access, utility connections or facilities. Fortunately for those of us who live elsewhere, the full effect of abandoning planning is likely be experienced first as a continuous, dysfunctional suburban sprawl across south-east England.
It's a divide and rule Budget from shameless Tories
Simon Gosden (letters, 23 March) believes that the "rank hypocrisy" of awarding the rich a tax cut will not be forgotten by the electorate at the next general election.
I wish I could agree, but I remember the Thatcher governments getting re-elected in 1983 and 1987 with huge majorities after they, too, had attacked ordinary people's jobs, wages and welfare while giving the rich massive tax cuts. Why will 2015 be any different?
The Conservatives will continue doing what they have so successfully done thus far; play divide and rule among us – public sector vs private sector; employed vs unemployed; "hard-working taxpayers" vs students; the south-east vs poorer regions; English vs the Scots, etc; while the Tories' wealthy backers line their already bulging corporate pockets at our expense.
Thank you for your informative Budget 2012 supplement (22 March). You report (page 4) that HMRC estimates that the direct cost of having a 45p top rate of tax instead of a 50p rate is only £100m a year and Mr Osborne describes this as being "next to nothing".
So it follows (page 7) that the Chancellor will be investing next to nothing in university research facilities in order achieve his goal of making the UK into Europe's technology centre.
He will also be spending next to nothing on improving accommodation for the Armed Services, and will be investing half of next to nothing in internet networks to achieve "the fastest digital speeds in the world" in small cities.
Sir Mick Jagger – for services to offshore companies – illustrates the hypocrisy of the honours system; rotten to the core ("Estate agents voice fears as plug is pulled on the rock star's property trick", 22 March)
"Everyone watching this programme who is in work is better off as a result of the Budget" said George Osborne on ITV's Daybreak on 22 March.
That's a nice distinction, George. So it's sod the unemployed or those earning less than the tax threshold is it? This can only widen the gap between the filthy rich and the poorest in society. As will the reduction of the 50p rate which gives another £42,500 to someone on £1m.
To simply castigate those tax evaders and avoiders whose actions are said to render the tax revenues from the 50p tax rate "negligible" while seeing the remedy as to give up on tax which is difficult to collect, is to aid and abet crime.
Thank you, Lib Dems.
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
When there is change in tax rates there is obviously a benefit in switching income from a higher-taxed year into a lower-taxed year. This was done when the 50p rate was introduced. Now that the rate is to be lowered there is obviously a benefit to be gained by switching income forward into the new lower-taxed year. By providing this new tax-avoidance loophole it will no doubt be claimed that higher tax rates don't provide a higher tax take.
Once again this Government will ensure that those who will gain most are those with high income and the greatest losers are those low earners aged over 75. No surprise there then!
The north-west is home of invention
Early on in your doubtless well-meant piece about the technological innovations and advanced nature of the education on offer at Bolton's Essa Academy (20 March) you state: "on the face of it, many might consider the Lancashire town an unlikely spot to herald one of the biggest revolutions in learning... in decades."
Well, they might. But only if they were ignorant of the splitting of the atom by Ernest Rutherford, the earlier pioneering atomic research of John Dalton, the invention of the modern computer by Alan Turing, the development of the electron microscope, many of the advances of the industrial revolution, the world's first regular passenger railway or other such trivialities, all of which occurred in Lancashire and the north-west
Given this, though I hate to sound "chippy", on past form it would be far more unlikely for any significant technical advance to come from, say, Chipping Norton or Islington.
This Francophobia is dishonorable
Adrian Hamilton usually offers a refreshingly different insight into international affairs, but his comments on France are a disgrace ("France is a deeply racist country", 23 March). It seems that Francophobia has become the new racism for politically correct British commentators and many liberals.
With six weeks to go to the French election, it's still and always about the economy. Poll after poll has shown electors are worried most about their waning purchasing power, their job security, the lack of affordable accommodation – despite fevered attempts by the right and extreme right to focus on immigration, Muslims and security; until Toulouse, Le Pen's poll ratings had been steadily declining.
There are far too many racists in France and in Britain. That doesn't make either a racist country. Comments like Hamilton's are, in his own words, "unseemly and obscene".
Could poetry prevent pain?
Steve Connor's "Scientists make pain control discovery" (22 March) is fascinating and I am sure the possible drug treatments heralded by the discoveries about opiod receptors will be welcome. However, it somewhat disappoints that the only thoughts on the discoveries are reported relating to (profitable) drug therapies. The operation of opiod receptors could perhaps lead us to understand much more clearly how exercise and diet may be managed effectively for wellbeing, or even to how poetry triggers the "pleasure molecules"? If science just follows the money we may all be happy... but completely without art.
University of Bolton, Lancashire
Hazard in wait for 'Boris Island'
Now that David Cameron has lent his support to "Boris Island", we have to ask if he or his advisers is aware of the SS Richard Montgomery? Its wreck lies in the Thames estuary and it contains some 3,000 tons of unstable munitions from the Second World War.
Opinion about its condition and the potential risk of explosion and subsequent damage appears to be divided, but it would seem to be a sensible idea to consider the threat it poses before any decision is made to proceed with the construction of an airport, or else it could become known for all the wrong reasons.
Olympics bring out the worst
The Olympics seem to bring out the worst in our best. The brand mark by leading identity designers Wolff Olins is widely regarded as a hopeless mess. Anish Kapoor has produced one of his ugliest and most inappropriate pieces ever for the Olympic park "Orbit" tower. And now Stella McCartney changes the colours of the Union Jack of all things for the misfiring Team GB kit. This stuff isn't edgy or groundbreaking or clever. It's just dumb.
We're all special
I wonder if I am alone in resolving that I shall not be voting for the Labour Party until its leaders stop referring to me and my family as "ordinary" people.
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